Bear Watching on the West Coast of Vancouver Island

Canada is home to 60% of the world's bear population, and Tofino offers some of the best opportunities in the world to watch these stunning mammals in their natural habitat at a safe distance. Vancouver Island has its own unique and healthy population of black bears, aptly named the "Vancouver Island Black Bear." They are slightly larger and have a deeper shade of black than their mainland counterparts. Population estimates on the Island are around 7,000, with males weighing up to 275kg and females weighing up to 180kg. Despite being picky eaters, with a 90% plant-based diet of grasses, roots, berries, and insects, coastal bears also enjoy feasting on crabs and shellfish. Fall is an important feeding time for black bears, as they stock up on the protein and calories provided by the salmon run just in time for their hibernation in October.

Cubs are born during this hibernation period, usually in groups of one to five, and emerge from the long winters weighing around a mere 3kg before embarking on a season of bulking up and learning all the essential skills needed to survive in preparation for heading off on their own into the vast wilds and temperate rainforests of Vancouver Island. Watching a mother bear teach her cubs how to flip over rocks in search of food in the tidal pools and beaches around Clayoquot Sound is a unique and memorable experience. The bear-watching season in Tofino runs from May until the end of September when the black bears habitually head out of the dense forests around Clayoquot Sound at low tide to feed along the beaches and reefs dotted around the region. Visitors have a superb chance to experience one of nature's most awe-inspiring sights as bears in this region hunt for hours at a time to find food on these exposed beaches.

When selecting your bear-watching tour, it's important to consider what sort of experience you're looking for. All tours from Tofino are via boat, and given the inclement weather that can at times be associated with coastal bear viewing, some visitors prefer a vessel with a covered viewing area providing protection from the elements. The more adventurous types prefer an open boat, such as a zodiac, which gives the viewer a more natural bear-watching experience and an unencumbered view of all the action. One non-negotiable to look for when deciding upon a tour is that your Tour Operator is a Commercial Bear Viewing Association member, and that your bear-viewing guide is also CBVA certified. This way, you can be sure that your tour is operating to the highest possible industry standards and that you have the best guiding experience possible. An added bonus of bear watching in Tofino is the breathtaking scenery. Whether it's in a covered or open vessel, visitors are immersed in some of the most stunning nature on earth. The journey to the bears' feeding grounds weaves through islands and breathtaking remote coastlines dwarfed by the Strathcona Provincial Park mountains that lay behind. All of which make Bear Watching on the West Coast of Vancouver Island a truly unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

black bear watching wildlife tour near Tofino with Long Beach Nature Tours

Interested in booking a tour? Join us during your visit to Tofino!